Solar Energy Explained
Solar energy is one of the key parts in the movement against global warming. If we can power things with it, we can end the use of gas and oil. There are two main ways of producing energy from sunlight: Concentrated Solar Thermal Power (CST) and Photovoltaic Power (PV). CST uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto a pipe containing water or a synthetic oil called Therminol. It then heats the water or Therminol to several hundred degrees. After the liquid is pumped through the complex system, a heat exchanger uses the energy to create steam, which powers an electricity-generating turbine. The second way of producing solar energy is by using Photovoltaic power. “PV”, makes electricity directly, without using a turbine. The semiconducting silicon panels, when hit by sunlight, uses the photons in the sunlight to to release the electrons from the atoms in the photovoltaic material so they can come out of the solar cell as an electrical current. To convert the direct current into the alternate current we use in our homes, an inverter is required. Silicon, the raw material in which the solar cells are made of, is the second most abundant resource on earth, after oxygen. The cost to make solar panels has greatly decreased and the use of PV power is becoming increasingly more popular.